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The winners of the first Handspring Awards for Puppetry were announced at Out the Box Festival of Puppetry and Visual Theatre’s closing ceremony on Sunday 28th March, held at the Little Theatre, UCT’s Hiddingh Campus.
The awards were presented by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, founders of the Handspring Puppet Company. Speaking from the Baxter Theatre stage at the festival opening, Jones said that in recent years, puppetry had grown in local theatre and so had a “greater understanding of the nature of the puppet theatre”. “We are in possession of a clearer set of analytical tools when we come to ‘critiquing’ new works in the theatre,” he continued. Kohler added that this is not shared by everyone. “All too often”, he says, “when one reads a review of a new puppet piece, it begins with the words: ‘If you thought puppets were only for children…’ which unfortunately sets the discourse at a pretty basic level. Public debate about what puppets offer to the theatre is thin. The often asked question ‘Why puppets?’ needs vigorous and thoughtful answers. We seldom get them. What for instance is the difference between a human actor on the stage and a puppet of a human? We believe there is a very significant difference, which is connected to the fact that only the puppet has to fight and struggle to live, whereas an actor can take this struggle for granted.”
Jones and Kohler founded the Handspring Puppet Company in 1981 and have travelled the world with their magical stories. They are the brilliant creators behind the puppets used in several productions in this country such as Tall Horse and Woyzeck on the Highveld. They developed the ground-breaking techniques that brought a life-like horse to the stage in War Horse, an epic and thrilling UK production about the bond between a boy and his horse based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo. War Horse was performed to sell out seasons at London’s National Theatre and is now running successfully at the New London Theatre on the West End before opening On Broadway in 2011.
Apart from stimulating broader debate on puppetry, the company also aims to raise the quality of this theatre-making genre with their annual contest. Five awards with R7,000 prize money per winner will be available annually. With the exception of the award for Best Production, only people from Africa will be eligible for the awards. This year would be the first of five annual competitions. The first three years would honour exclusively the best works – with prize money – at Out The Box. Thereafter, the awards would be open to any persons producing puppet theatre in the Western Cape.
The 2010 Handspring Awards for Puppetry prizes went to:
The Best Puppet Production:
Angel , created by the Duda Paiva Company of the Netherlands.This prize was created in memory of Lillie Herzberg, the founder on UNIMA in South Africa
The Best Visual Theatre Production:
27 Windows, 4 Doors and 2 Taps, created by Mwenya Kabwe & Mandla Mbothwe
The Best Puppet Design:
Thierry Cassuto and Zapiro for production on ZA News.
The Best Puppet Manipulation:
Winner: Ilana Cilliers for the production Adventures of a Little Nobody. This prize was created in honour of Gawie de Wet, a pioneer puppeteer whose impassioned performances are remembered by many who grew up on the Cape Flats.
The Best Puppet Debut:
Beren Belknap for the production Lenny and the Wasteland. This award was created in honour of Fourie Nyamande who was an extremely talented puppeteer and actor who died far too young
Out the Box Festival of Puppetry and Visual Performance 20 – 28 March 2010. The Out The Box Festival of Puppetry & Visual Performance is directed by Janni Younge and artistic director Jaqueline Dommisse. It is a visual feast of drama and dance performances, workshops, talks, exhibitions and films that caters for adults and children alike.
Cape Town Carnival 2010 18 March – 20 March 2010. The theme for the first Cape Town Carnival is “Rhythm, Roots & Boots”, celebrating Cape Town’s talent in all things cultural and artistic, as well as paying tribute to our rich heritage.
Cape Town Festival 2010 19 March – 22 March 2010. Billed as an “incomparable” culture and heritage event, the Cape Town Festival sets out to present a diverse arts, culture and heritage event that caters for all cultural groups and ages, Mother City residents and visitors alike.
Taste of Cape Town 2010 24 – 28 March 2010. Each year Taste of Cape Town brings together the city’s most acclaimed restaurants and carefully selected exhibitors to attract 20 000 of Cape Town’s most dedicated and sophisticated foodies. This year the festival will again be held at Rhodes High School, Montreal Avenue, Mowbray.
Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards 21 March 2010. Equivalent to the Tony Awards in New York, the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards is an evening of glitz and glamour that attracts the cream of the country’s theatre talent and entertainers.
Grease, The Musical 6 March – 11 April 2010. The musical features an outstanding all-South African cast. The production is packed with raw energy and moves at a fast, furious and thrilling pace with an irresistible mix of adolescent angst, vibrant physicality and 1950s pop culture that resonates with audiences throughout the world.
K-Day Music Festival 20 March 2010. K-day is an open air music festival featuring some of South Africa’s hottest musical talent.
Cape Winelands Film Festival 17 – 27 March 2010.The 2010 Cape Winelands Film Festival (CWFF) are proud to present an unparalleled window on quality films from around the globe. The rich selection of world cinema includes features, documentaries and shorts, all which have won over 300 international awards.
Broken Arrow at Kalk Bay Modern 24 February – 31 March 2010. An exhibition of paintings, sculptures, lino prints and beaded embroideries representing San communities from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
Spier Contemporary Exhibition 2010 14 March – 14 May 2010. The Exhibition comprises 132 artworks from 101 artists. Distilled from over 2,700 national submissions, it is a visual and aural barometer of South Africa in 2010.
The legendary Handspring Puppet Company will be well represented at the annual Out the Box Festival of Puppetry and Visual Performance this year, when their extraordinary well-known 48 minute documentary, Making War Horse, will be screened at the Labia Cinema on Orange Street, as part of the Moving Things Film Festival.
Making War Horse relates the story of how Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel became one of the most popular and acclaimed productions in the National Theatre’s history in the UK. From its early development in the NT’s studio, audiences will see how the Handspring Puppet Company created the groundbreaking techniques that brought a life-like horse to the stage. Going behind the scenes and into the rehearsal room, with featured interviews from the cast and creative team, Making War Horse documents this unique theatrical collaboration and the creation of an outstanding stage classic. The second film by Handspring will be Woycjek on the Highveld, a 90 minute filmed version of the company’s most widely travelled theatre production of the same name. The play received the Vita Award for Production of the Year of a New South African Play when it premiered in 1992 and it continues to be a favourite at theatre festivals.
Making War Horse will be shown on the 23rd March at 6pm, 26th March at 12pm and on the 28 March at 2pm when Basil and Adrian from Handspring will introduce the documentary and take questions from the audience.
For the full festival programme visit www.outtheboxfestival.com or call 021 462 5811 or buy your copy of The Big Issue for comprehensive festival info.
The Out The Box Festival of Puppetry & Visual Performance is a visual feast of performances, workshops, talks, exhibitions and films that caters for adults and children alike. This year the event takes place at the Baxter Theatre Centre, The UCT Hiddingh campus in Gardens and the Labia Cinema on Orange Street.
For young audiences, artists present their wildest and most beautiful imaginings in works using puppetry, projection, objects, multi-media and live performers. When the sun sets and the little ones are tucked in bed, adult audiences are invited back to experience something completely different.
Included in the breath-taking line-up for the Adult Festival this year are international performance artists and contemporary dancers, Duda Paiva from the Netherlands and Angel and Edna Jaime from Mozambique. Some of the local works featured are the groundbreaking Quack! by FTH:K ; Acty Tang’s Inscrutable and the acclaimed Mothertongue Theatre’s The Baggage of Bags as well as several new works by new and emerging theatre makers.
So often it is childhood that comes to mind when thinking of puppetry and those wanting a family theatre experience won’t be disappointed. This year The Out The Box festival has created a Family Festival programme of puppetry and visual performance from around the globe featuring both overseas artists and preeminent Southern African youth theatre practitioners like Ubom from Grahamstown, Arley’s Workshop from Durban and the remarkable Seka from Zambia.
For those who want to get more deeply immersed in the experience, a range of exciting workshops will be presented by specialists in the many diverse forms of puppetry, including a workshop by South Africa’s national treasure, Handspring Puppet Company.
Tickets cost from R30 to R50 via Computicket with special offers for block bookings of ten or more. For more info please visit
www2.outtheboxfestival.com/ or call 021 462 5811.
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